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Some Assembly Required
by Buck Dopp
My attempts to build, repair, or assemble anything in our home, usually ended up
costing money. My installation of the easy-to-operate garage door opener started the
house on fire. A plumber needed to renovate our bathroom pipes after I tried to save
money by unclogging the drain myself. The plumber told my wife, “Your hubby shoulda
used the plunger instead of the taking the pipes apart with a wrench.”
How unprofessional of him!
Some assembly required. Those three words, which can be spoken in less than 2
seconds, hide the reality that a lot of work on your part will be required before the
purchase will function like the advertisement said it would. Those simple words hijack
common sense and launch the unsuspecting victim into a fantasy world where truth has
vanished and unicorns rule the universe. Those words delude the buyer into thinking
what is required is no big deal.
“Some assembly” sounds so minor. The color picture on the front of the box adds
to the deception. You start thinking, this is going to be so easy. There probably aren’t
even written directions.
But it won’t be long before the consumer will be spending hours cross-legged on
the living room floor, legs numb, screaming at no one in particular, in the midst of a
roomful of scattered parts that have yet to find a home.
A case in point is the time I put together the new vacuum cleaner. I was having a
little difficulty.
“Why don’t you ask one of your friends to come over and help you out,” my wife
suggested.” I was sure I detected a slight smirk which she quickly covered up.
Looking up with my fists full of parts, I replied, “Because I don’t need any help.
That’s why.”
Then she handed me the manual that came with the vacuum. “Why don’t you just
read this?”
“That’s not the way I roll,” I said. “Those directions are written by engineers and
everyone knows they can’t write. Besides, I’m an intuitive person and learn better by
Standing with her arms folded, she stared at me with a glare that would have
burned a hole in a piece of steel. But I stared right back at her and said, “And, oh bythe-way, if you’d quit interrupting me, I’d have had that darn thing put together by now.”
“Fine. Whatever. I’m rounding up the kids, and we’re going to visit my mother for
the weekend. Call if you need anything.” She stomped out of the room.
I didn’t mind her leaving one bit. I work better alone anyway. When she’s gone, I
enjoy being by myself. Of course I never tell her that because I don’t want to hurt her
feelings. I may not be mechanically inclined, but I am very kind and she knows that. I’m
sure that’s why she married me: kindness.
After she and the kids drove away, I went to the kitchen and made myself a cup
of coffee and opened a package of chocolate chip cookies. It’s important to get your
blood sugar to the proper level when you’re assembling stuff.
While I munched on those cookies, I imagined what would happen at my motherin-law’s house. Her name is Florence, but I’ve nicknamed her Daughter of Satan. I could
imagine her bad-mouthing me behind my back. She’ll remind my wife she used to date
an engineer named Bob.
The old bag will sneer. “Remember Bob? You should have married him. Bob
would have been real good at putting your vacuum cleaner together.”
Yeah, maybe so. But would Bob be kind?
It took all weekend, but I got the vacuum put together. When my wife showed up
Sunday night, I showed her the finished product. I expected her to say thanks and give
me a hug. Instead, she pointed to a box of parts.
“What’s that? Aren’t those supposed to be attached to the vacuum cleaner?”
She’s always finding faults and imperfections with everything I do, but I know she
means well.
“Those are spare parts,” I said. When I fired up the vacuum cleaner it sounded
louder than the lawn mower.
She noticed how loud it was and yelled so I could hear her over the vacuum.
“Howard, if I use that thing, it will make me deaf.”
I had anticipated her concern about the volume and had bought a bag of
disposable earplugs. “Here you go,” I said and handed her the bag.
“What am I supposed to do with these?”
That was the day vacuuming became my job.
By the time our grandchildren came along, it had been years since I had tried to
assemble anything. The passage of time had erased the recollection of the kind of
damage I was capable of inflicting. When I ran across a little toy train set called the
“Polar Express.” I thought it would be the perfect Christmas gift for my grandson. I paid
no attention to the wording on the box, “some assembly required.” I hadn’t read those
words in a long time, and now they meant nothing to me—they should have.
Actually, I thought I did a decent job assembling the “Polar Express.” It only took
about 20 minutes to set up the track. As I gathered my wife and grandchildren into the
living room to watch the maiden voyage of the “Polar Express,” I told my grandson to
turn off the lights because the picture on the box showed a light on the engine.
Feeling so proud of myself, I made an announcement. “Everyone find a
comfortable place to sit so you can watch the “Polar Express.”
I pushed the “on” switch, but the “Polar Express” didn’t move.
“Someone please turn on the lights,” I said.
Reaching for the box to take another look at the picture of the train, I noticed
three little words I hadn’t read before………..“Batteries not included.”
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